Disability

Hot, disabled and not afraid to show it

Brandy Lewis Image copyright Brandy Lewis
Image caption Brandy Lewis, from Los Angeles, was quick to get involved with #DisabledPeopleAreHot

Ever get the feeling that every hashtag you think up has been used before? Well, it turns out there are still a few that haven't - and Canadian Andrew Gurza recently hit upon one.

"I put it on my Twitter one day and I noticed that nobody was using it," he says.

"I was like, 'Wow,' so I ran with it and said, 'OK, I can turn this into something really fun.'"

His hashtag? #DisabledPeopleAreHot

Mr Gurza, who has cerebral palsy, asked people to post pictures of themselves "feeling sexy, feeling good about themselves and feeling happy and disabled".

"It took off," he says. People from around the world snapped selfies - some with mobility devices such as wheelchairs or crutches, others with a nod to their hidden disability. Then, they let the world see and appreciate them at their best.

Robert West got in on the action, with his artistic moustache. "A hashtag that promotes disabled visibility and my own terrible vanity? I'm in!" he says.

Alexia Gil says: "Just one of the only photos where I think it's true for my case. I'm getting there."

Phillip B Turcotte tweeted his image with the caption: "Thanks @andrewgurza for starting this now trending hashtag, and for inspiring me to post a pic where I feel strong, powerful, and hot."

Others are pleased the hashtag is doing well but feel a bit too shy to join in with their own photo.

Suswati Basu tweets: "Love this hashtag. Won't put one up myself but will appreciate others with the courage to do so."

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Media captionWhy has the hashtag #DisabledPeopleAreHot suddenly gone viral?

Andrew Gurza gives BBC Ouch the lowdown on his plans for the "merch" he's going to produce for the hashtag and how it's a lot more than just a flash-in-the-pan trend.

Mr Gurza says tweets such as Basu's "show how much internalised ableism we still have in our community and how afraid we are to admit that we were allowed to be hot".

"This hashtag is a way of saying, 'Don't feel afraid to feel sexy,'" he says.

Ableism, by the way, is the name given to discrimination that favours able-bodied people above those with disabilities.

Image copyright Kiri Godfrey

Mr Gurza runs the weekly Disability After Dark podcast, which deals frankly with sexuality and disability.

He says disabled people have spent centuries feeling undesirable but the hashtag goes beyond just being more positive.

"It says that disabled people have agency over their sexuality, over their bodies and who they are, and why shouldn't we celebrate that?" he says.

Khiarial tweeted: "Just wanted to hop on this hashtag because I literally had a guy tell me I'm too pretty to be in a wheelchair and that if it wasn't for my chair, he would date me. Anyways, here I am hot, disabled, and unbothered by ignorance."

Image copyright Eileen Davidson

If Mr Gurza's hashtag sounds familiar, that's because a few others have struck a similar chord.

There was #HotInAWheelchair and #DisabledPeopleAreCute, so how does this differ?

"I think you can be cute and you can be hot, and you can be whatever you want to be," he says.

"They speak to the same thing - we want to be seen, and these hashtags are a way to do that and a way to say, 'Let's all support each other.'"

So the hashtag's been a success, what next? Or is it just another social media flash in the pan?

"I'm getting merchandise done," Mr Gurza says. "I'm doing T-shirts - because I really want to say this is a thing and let's talk about this more and let's have fun with it."

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